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going-away party

By Diogenes (articles ) | Sep 28, 2007

An OC Weekly article focuses on Diocese of Orange Vicar General John Urell's crack-up during a deposition taken in July:

[Plaintiff attorney John] Manly had had enough. "Do you have any memory problems?" he asked Urell.

"Well, actually, I'm -- yes."

An incredulous Manly asked Urell to explain. At the beginning of the deposition, Manly had specifically asked the monsignor if he had any memory problems; Urell said no. Diocesan lawyers objected to Manly's request, but Judge Robert Jameson instructed Urell to respond.

"Well, you know when I worked at Marywood [the diocesan headquarters] for those years that I was there, many of those years, a good number of those years were in a tremendous variety of ministries," Urell replied. "And one of them, the most painful for those who came forward and for me who had to try to help them and manage these things, was all these allegations of sexual abuse.

"And I can't tell you what it is, but I just don't remember them anymore," Urell continued. "I try to forget them. It is a horrible -- I don't forget the people, but a horrible chapter in their lives and in mine. And so I don't remember a lot."

Manly asked Jameson for a break. Twenty-five minutes later, church lawyer Peter Callahan told the judge that Urell couldn't continue -- he was "overcome. ... He is not in a psychological state where he can listen to the questions and give answers to complicated questions."

Nice timing all around. It's remarkable how seldom the sudden memory lapses and incapacities that strike senior clergymen under oath work to their detriment, legally speaking; remarkable too how their horror at sexual abuse of minors seems not to have adverse consequences for their relations with the offenders. Later in the same article we're told:

In 2001, Manly deposed [Urell] as part of a lawsuit filed by Ryan DiMaria (now an attorney in Manly's firm) alleging he was molested by Monsignor Michael Harris. Harris -- the former principal at Mater Dei and Santa Margarita High Schools -- was one of the most popular priests in Orange County history but had to resign in 1994 after he refused to undergo therapy for an attraction to teenage boys.

Urell told Manly that he was put in charge of following up on sex-abuse allegations lodged against Harris at the time of his resignation. But Urell merely asked Harris whom he should interview to second DiMaria's claims. He also confessed to attending a going-away party held for Harris by the Orange diocese and supporters. The host was [Diocese of Orange pederast Fr.] Michael Pecharich.

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

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  • Posted by: - Oct. 01, 2007 9:51 AM ET USA

    Not all clerics have amnesia. I know bishops and theologians with such good memories that they can remember things that never even happened, at Vatican 11 forty years ago!

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